Chris Wolgamott simulates a financial counseling session.
According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), over the last year, 21 percent of Kansans reported their household spent more than their income. This is two percent higher than the national average. In addition, 59 percent of individuals in Kansas lack a rainy day fund, three percent higher than the national average.
Based on these statistics, it is evident that financial counseling programs are a much-needed service for Kansas consumers, and credit unions are in a perfect position to offer these types of services.
KCUA hosted a workshop earlier this week to help credit unions learn how they can be a financial education resource.
Attendees heard from Mark Lynch, Field Coach with Real Solutions who shared the importance of establishing a vision, setting goals, preparing an action plan and measuring and reporting your success as key elements to a successful program. He also shared examples of successful programs across the nation.
Chris Wolgamott, Senior Financial Counselor at Meritrust Credit Union conducted a financial counseling simulation as well as discussed how Meritrust’s own financial education program works.
“Mark Lynch with REAL Solutions provided several statistics at the national and state level, that show the challenges our members are facing,” said Larry Schmitz, CEO of Medical Community Credit Union, who attended the workshop. “ Just this week a study by the Urban Institute and Encore Capital Group reported that more than 35 percent of U.S. adults have accounts that are in collections. Apply those numbers to your membership and it is clear that members need help from someone they trust.”
Janice Davis, Vice President of Lending for Educational Credit Union, agrees that financial counseling would be a valuable resource for her members.
“I think it is important for credit unions to offer financial counseling to better educate and prepare our members for the future as well as how to budget for today. We get calls all the time from members asking how they can improve their chances of getting a mortgage or auto loan, how to repair credit and how to save,” she said. “It was an eye opener to see how many appointments Meritrust does for their members and also to hear the national averages from Mark as to just how much in debt Americans are, and how little income we have to live on, let alone make mortgage, auto, and student loan payments.”
Attendees of the workshop included recent graduates of the FiCEP program, an extensive 12 week financial counseling certification program offered by KCUA, in partnership with Real Solutions and CUNA. More than 20 credit union staff completed the program and earned the designation of Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor.